System or times?

November 25, 2011

Proponents of MMP argue that it is better for getting representation of women and ethnic minorities.

This post at the Hand Mirror leaves no doubt that parliament has become more diversified since MMP was introduced, but how much has that had to do with the system and how much has it had to do with the times?

Society has changed a lot in the last 15 years. More women and a wider range of people from different nationalities and cultures have entered parliament on lists, but I wouldn’t want to suggest many, maybe even most, could and would not have been able to win electorate seats.

An example of both how they can and what’s wrong with MMP is Georgina Beyer, the world’s first transvestite mayor. She entered parliament by winning a seat but then when the electorate kicked her out she stayed on as an MP through the list.

To believe that people on lists wouldn’t be able to win seats would be a very poor reflection on both them and the parties they represent. It would mean their presence in parliament wasn’t due to what they had to offer but to tokenism.

That leads on to the question of whether diversity in parliament has made a material and positive difference to the communities these people are supposed to represent and wider New Zealand or whether their presence has just been a token one.

I think the jury is out on that. Some have made very real contributions, others have been nothing more than a bum on a parliamentary seat when votes are counted.

It’s all very well to say parliament is more representative of some sectors of the population but it has come at the cost of others. Does, for example, any party but National have any farmers (proper ones, not lifestylers)? Phil Goff was asked in a radio interview how many of his caucus had run their own business and he struggled to name any.

Even if increased diversity could only be achieved through lists, and I don’t think that is the case, it has come at the very high cost of fewer and therefore much larger electorates.

Greater diversity in parliament is small comfort for the people who find it much more difficult to meet their MP in their electorates.

If we changed to a system with more electorates there would be far more opportunities for people to be selected for winnable seats. Smaller seats would also increase the pool of people able to stand, make it much easier for MPs to service the electorate and for constituents to have access to them.

No electoral system is perfect, all have advantages and disadvantages.

Among MMP’s weak points is the amount of power it gives to parties when National is the only one left with a wide and numerous membership base.

That increased power for parties has resulted in poorer representation for people.

Who sits in parliament doesn’t make much difference to most people.  MPs who are able to service their electorates easily and provide ready access for constituents is far more important.

That is why I’ll be voting for change tomorrow and choosing Supplementary Member.


Did you see the one about

March 20, 2011

Americans call it experience not failure –  Peter Kerr calls for a change in thinking in New Zealand.

Some perspective –  Adolf at No Minister on what kills how many.

There’s glory for you! – Andrew Geddis at Pundit on a legal and literary mixup.

Party manifestos to be displayed in plain packets with government health warnings – Newsbiscuit on new rules for public protection. While there you might also enjoy Pay study shows women now 88% as good as men – a satirical take on pay equity.

Doesn’t work if you’re self employed though –  Something Should Go here Maybe Later on meetings as an alternative to work. While there you should see the footprint of my car will raise a smile.

And congratulations to the Hand Mirror on three years of Hand Mirrorness.


Sleep working or wakeover?

February 21, 2011

Evaluating residential services for intellectually disabled people gave me an insight into the best, worst and in-between.

Some homes were so good I’d have been happy to move in myself, a couple were so bad I wouldn’t have left a stuffed toy in their care. Most were somewhere in between but tending towards the better end.

The residents varied as people without disabilities do. Some were happy, healthy and had a high level of independence. Some were unhappy, had physical and/or mental health problems, some were totally dependent. Others had varying levels of challenging behaviour which required extra skill and patience in those caring for them.

The key to what made the homes good or bad was the staff. Some were skilled, dedicated to and respectful of the people for whom they were caring.

One was so bad that had he not been wearing a uniform we’d have thought he was one of the residents with a personality disorder.

In some houses the staff who did night duty were there only for emergencies like fire, earthquakes or severe illness. They could rely on being able to go to bed and sleeping until morning almost every night and many had never been woken. In some the night staff had more onerous duties because residents had higher needs and a few had to get up at least once every night.

Given the different requirements and duties it’s difficult to apply a single rule over pay and conditions, yet that is what the court ruling saying sleepover staff must be paid a minimum wage does.

Sleepover staff usually begin their duties in the late afternoon or early evening and are paid an hourly rate until they go to be at about 10pm. They’re paid an allowance (about $35) for that and an hour’s pay for every part of an hour they have to get up during the night. They’re then on active duty from about 7am for a couple of hours until the residents go out for the day or day staff come on duty.

The court ruling means that they’d have to be paid at least $13 an hour for the time they’re in bed. This has expensive implications not just for providers of residential services for intellectually disabled people but others who employ sleepover staff like boarding schools, student halls of residence and rest homes.

I have no problem with paying people an hour’s work for any part hour they have to get up through the night.

I understand the need to be paid something for having to be somewhere for a specific time with responsibility for other people and for having sleep disturbed, or the potential for it.

But I don’t think people can be earning $13 an hour in their sleep.

 If employers have to pay an hourly rate they would be justified in expecting their staff to do more than sleep in return for it. Would staff then be prepared to make it a wakeover – to be  awake and actively doing something through the night?

Not all would:

Hawksbury Trust chairman Richard Thomson . . .  who is also a Southern DHB member, had mixed feelings about the Court of Appeal decision, saying it could prove to a “pyrrhic victory” for workers.

For many people, sleepover shifts allowed them to do other things during the day, such as studying at university or working another job. Many people had benefited from the set-up, and it did not seem right they may be in for back-pay. However, he could also see an element of unfairness in not paying an hourly rate.

“There will be winners and losers [among the workers].”

If staff aren’t prepared to be up and active,  they’re sleepworking. That requires some pay  butI don’t think the normal hourly pay expected for actively working  is justified. 

Kathryn Ryan did a prolonged interview on the court ruling and its implications on Thursday.

Kiwiblog also has reservations but Rob’s Blockhead and The Hand Mirror support the ruling.


Did you see the one about . . .

July 28, 2010

There’s a certain slant of light – Craft is the New Black’s ode to winter.

I guess that means I also need to take my computer – Laughy Kate shares a gift from her mother.

The worm – Skeptic Lawyer finds a canker at the heart of political society.

Now this is what I call inspirational Not PC –  mixes fine art and fine words. While thereanyone who’s every practised work avoidance will relate to Procrastination.

Nine and a bit months – if Julie’s experience at The Hand Mirror was that of most women there’d be a lot more one-child families.


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